Photo Credit: nbcam.org (National Breast Cancer Awareness Month)
I changed up the design of my blog a little bit in honor of “breast cancer” awareness month. This cause is very near and dear to my heart.
In September 2005, right after turning 25, I packed up my entire life and moved from Phoenix, AZ to Greenville, SC. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I arrived, but was looking forward to a change of pace.
By November of the same year I had finally settled in and started adapting myself to my daily routine. I asked a colleague for recommendations about doctors more as an FYI and to schedule my yearly exam. She recommended Dr. D and I made an appointment for just a couple of weeks later.
I have never had anything abnormal with my exams, so I was just expecting to go in, get the meet and greet out of the way, and then schedule my appointment for the next year. Little did I know what I would have in store. During my exam Dr. D found a lump in my right breast. She didn’t sound too worried and said it was probably a cyst but that I should get it checked out anyway. She wrote me an order for an ultrasound – and we scheduled it for just a week later
Just even the thought of the word “lump” had me nervous. I mean, was this really happening to me. I was terrified. What made it worse was that I was completely alone. I knew no one in South Carolina. I had no friends to turn to, no family to count on. I didn’t want to call my parents and tell them. I didn’t want to worry them until I absolutely had to. I tried to keep it together as much as I could. I was a mess. I cried every night. This doesn’t happen to girls my age.
I went to my appointment alone. I was lucky that the Greenville Hospital Systems had an entire center dedicated to Breast Health. As soon as I arrived in the waiting room I noticed that I was the youngest person there. The waiting seemed to take forever. I was finally called back to a tiny ultrasound room. The nurse in the room was preparing me for the procedure. She was around my age and was trying to make me feel at ease with the whole thing. They would use the ultrasound to determine if it was just a harmless cyst- as was the case in most women my age and that I shouldn’t be worried. She took out the gel and began scanning and taking pictures. I couldn’t see the screen and she wasn’t talking very much. She was making small talk, but nothing about what she was seeing. After 10 minutes she wiped me up, I got redressed and she said she would come back with my scans.
The waiting seemed endless. She came back with the doctor – this was not a good sign. She began talking – the mass was solid (not a cyst). They would have to do more tests to determine whether or not it was cancerous and whether or not the lump would have to come out. All I remember was shaking and trying to hold back the tears. The doctors continued to reassure me that it could be nothing. That the mass was small and for the moment caused no serious concern. I went home and I cried for hours. Since I had no definitive answers I didn’t worry my parents – I kept it all inside.
Less than a week later I found myself back in the small ultrasound room. They would use the same ultrasound to find the “mass” except this time they would stick a long needle into my breast and guide it via the ultrasound. Once the “mass” was pierced the needle would shoot like a gun and capture a sample. WOW. The procedure was explained and I felt worse than ever. The first of two needles went in with the anesthesia. I was so scared. I was so alone. The nurse held my hand through the entire thing. This made me start crying. I had so many thoughts running through my head. “Why did I move to South Carolina?”; “I shouldn’t have to do this alone”; “Dear God please let me be okay”. After the first needle went in the doctor started the procedure. It took longer than planned since the muscle was so tight that they couldn’t guide the needle correctly. The anesthesia started wearing off and I could feel the pulling and the tearing. The tears kept flowing. Finally, they were able to get a sample. They taped me back up and I went home. It would be two weeks before I would hear anything back.
The worse thing out of this entire experience was the waiting. It seemed like the longest two weeks of my entire life. Finally I got the call from Dr. D’s office – the results were in. The nurse who checked me in was very friendly. When she saw what I was in for she told me she had the same experience. It was comforting in a way. After my blood and urine work, she took me back to wait in Dr. D’s office.
Dr. D arrived and she was incredibly calm at explaining the results – and she dumbed it down for me. I find this reassuring since big medical words have always tended to freak me out. It wasn’t cancer – but she was still concerned. I felt such relief taken off my shoulders. At least for that moment – I was cancer free. I thought about what I would have done had she not said those words.
I never expected to have that experience at the age of 25. Since that moment breast health and breast cancer awareness has been something that I care a great deal about. It is not something that only affects older women – it is something that can affect all women – at any age. Given my history I have to be extremely vigilant because I know that one day I won’t be so lucky.
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